13/08/2011

The Busway Special - Part Two

Welcome to part two of Andy's Bus Blog "The Busway Special" today we look at the first weekday operation on The Busway (Monday 8th August) with a report from Suzy Scott - founder of Anglia & Thames Valley Bus Forum and photos taken on Tuesday 9th August by David Slater.

Busway interior
Interior view of Stagecoach Volvo B7RLE AE09GYR at Trumpington P&R © David Slater

Suzy takes up the story...

"I wanted to at least sample the two guideway sections on the first day – on both route variants. I then travelled from Royston to Trumpington, Maris Lane, walking back to the Park & Ride to take the A through to St Ives Park & Ride before continuing by B to St Ives Bus Station, have a bit there, return to Cambridge for lunch at Nanna Mexico before returning home. It was a good day, bright but a little windy in places."

"So, off the 26 and walked to Trumpington, passing over the bridge in Hauxton Road which is low-height and single track, thus restricting Service A (at least for now!) to three single deck buses an hour. Civil Engineers in hi-viz were dotted around the site."

"I got to the P&R and saw someone from the Cambridge News giving away free copies, with four pages devoted to yesterday’s Busway launch. Next sight that I saw was one of the new ticket machines, by Kizoom. Oh dear – problems already, as paper and sellotape above showed passengers to pay their £2.50 return to the hospital on the bus. Also the A now stops much closer to the waiting room."

"The queue for the 09.59 was large, not too bad for a first day, but the 09.39 left passengers behind (quite a few passengers thought it was every 10 minutes throughout) the 09.59 departure from Trumpington to St Ives on Service A was Stagecoach Volvo/Wright 21224. This did leave about 6-8 passengers behind too. First weekday for the system, and first day for the Southern section of The Busway. Is it novelty factor, market day, or a mix of everything? Loadings were thus good."


Busway near Addenbrookes
In the distance, a Stagecoach Volvo B7RLE is seen with a very healthy load between Trumpington P&R and Addenbrookes © David Slater

"Loadings continued to be excellent throughout – if this continues into the school and college term, this may need to be relooked at! Upon arrival at St Ives, most passengers took convincing (even from the driver!) re this was as far as it was. The connection by the B 10 mins behind (in theory) is meant to be three minutes, probably a 5-15 min walk. Again, this is something that could work so much better for just a tiny section of route being expanded, as it is in the peak periods."

B7RLE at windmill bridge
Stagecoach Volvo B7RLE AE09GZA approaching Windmill Bridge between Longstanton & Swavesey heading for St Ives Park & Ride © David Slater

"After a quick browse of the market (and Budgens), went back on the B (B via Orchard Park – A via Science Park). Drivers were all wearing Goldline ties, so I complimented one by saying “I like your tie” – he said “I don’t” J This was a double deck bus, and was again struggling with an excellent load. Drivers were taking the route slowly and confidentially, with the exception of ours who didn’t realise he was doing a B, and tried to go straight on to the Science Park, instead of turning right into Orchard Park. Reverse and try again, crunching the kerb in the process. Passengers were largely happy, ecstatic or average, with only one woman cursing her head off about the way the bus went (someone didn’t realise the 55 was no more!). What planet has she been on for the last 10 years not to know about the Busway?"

Scania at St Ives
Stagecoach Scania N230UD AE09GYH at St Ives Bus Station © David Stater

"So, aside from the first day issues, how did I like it? Well, rather good – southern section is a little rougher than the main section. The main section of route is good, but the extension of Service A during the daytime off-peak to/from St Ives Bus Station would make so much difference! Aside from that, the quality of service is assured. However, passengers from the B were unaware that this had replaced Service 55 in some cases, with expectations that all passengers had been new. Indeed the quality vehicles had been used on the citi5 and 55 for some time. The opening saw Cllr Bates (CCC planning chief) stressing the word reliability three times – and indeed, given the number of times that the A14 jams up, it will offer an alternative for bus passengers. As to modal shift, and new developments along the way, only time will tell."

B7RLE Longstanton
Stagecoach Volvo B7RLE AE09GYS entering the busway track at Longstanton P&R © David Slater

Thanks to Suzy for her report and to David for allowing use of his photographs, The Busway certainly looks like its proving to be popular in terms of passenger numbers, whether this will calm down over time remains to be seen, however I suspect timetable alterations including an all day extension of the A to St Ives Bus Station will be needed in the near future!

I also mentioned in the last part talking about the media coverage of the busway opening, focusing on the BBC it was quite an interesting affair with the national BBC news reporting it as a "good" project in a more positive light with little mention of the extreme delay in opening. On the local BBC news Look East the delays in opening featured much more prominantly, it was nice though to see both peoples good and less good opinions featured on air and overall I feel like the opinion of the busway project has increased towards the good side now its opened.

Look out for part three of our The Busway Special report tomorrow which will include a report and photographs from our regular correspondant David Bell and more!